WordTheatre, a nonprofit organization that produces theatrical works using and adapting short stories, poetry, novel excerpts and more, will perform its latest show at Guild Hall on Sunday, August 25. Hearts Aflame: Love Letters & Torch Songs features a cast of talented actors reading real love letters from famous names like Sarah Bernhardt and singing popular torch songs. One performer in Hearts Aflame, Emily Bergl, has played memorable roles in shows like Desperate Housewives, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and most recently, Mindhunter.
Bergl became involved with WordTheatre after working with Artistic Director Cedering Fox on a few projects in Los Angeles and jumped at the chance to do this show. “This was really an important opportunity for me, because oral interpretation is something I’ve done my whole life,” Bergl says. “In high school I was a national champion in poetry reading [in the National Speech and Debate Association], so I spent a lot of time in high school reading aloud, reading poetry, speech team…and I felt that that work helped me as an actor just as much as any other plays or training that I did.”
During her senior year of high school, Bergl decided she wanted to pursue acting as a career. “I think that it’s something I always knew deep in my subconscious, but I wasn’t able to admit it to myself,” she explains. “I was failing English. I had been admitted to college and decided I didn’t want to do any work anymore, and I was in the school musical, Camelot, and I had to go and beg my English teacher to pass me so I could stay in the musical. She was a tough teacher and I was scared to ask for her clemency, and at the end of the conversation she turned to me and said, ‘Why are you doing all these plays? Do you want to be an actor?’ I was dumbfounded because no one had ever said that to me before, and she said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, that’s okay,’ and I said, ‘Yes, I want to be an actor’ and I have never looked back since.”
While Bergl has a love of musical theater, it’s something she has yet to do professionally. “I did a lot of musicals in school and it’s my dream. I’ve never done a musical professionally. A nice byproduct of that was, because I was aching to do a musical and it wasn’t happening for me, I decided to take matters into my own hands and do my own cabaret show. So you could say I do a musical of sorts, I’m just the only one in it!” Bergl’s longtime musical director, Jonathan Mastro, will accompany her during Hearts Aflame.
The actress, who will be in the Hamptons for her first WordTheatre production, is looking forward to returning to the East End, but admits she hopes this visit will be a better experience than her last. “I am hoping to cleanse that last trip,” she says. “The person I was dating at the time took me to a gentleman-only club, which I didn’t know existed in this day and age! It was this house with rooms and a big lounge with couches and a pool table and TV, and then there was a screen with a big sign saying, ‘Gentleman Only.’ That left me with a sour taste in my mouth for the Hamptons, so I am really glad that I’m taking another trip to the Hamptons because I know that the Hamptons is not a sexist place like that!” Bergl knows this will be a much better trip!
As for what audiences can expect during Hearts Aflame, Bergl hints that the romantic piece may be a surprise. “It’s an evening of love letters, but I would say don’t just expect lurid romance,” she says slyly. “When I saw the cuttings that Cedering put together, I found some of the remarks quite profound. I am doing one by Sarah Bernhardt, and interspersed with the evening we’ve got love songs. As a cabaret performer I would categorize myself as subversive, so it’s going to get a little raucous, a little hot under the collar!”
See Hearts Aflame: Love Letters & Torch Songs at Guild Hall on Sunday, August 25. For tickets and more information, visit guildhall.org.